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His countenance was lightning, and his vest
6“Our Mother first beheld him, sore amazed,
'Tis He, the Prince of Seraphim, who drove.
6“Eve's faithful arm still clasp'd her lifeless Spouse ;
lated from the Latin of rings, a Didascalic Poem, trans
, with Commentaries, comparative, illustrative, and scientific, and the Life of Epicurus. By 'Thomas Busby, Mus. Doc. Cantab. 2 vols. 4to. 1813.
gizing objects, they will do prodigies.' In literature these objects, whether originality or plagiarism be employed upon them, are generally developed in a quarto.
Our ancestors, for the most part, were content with prefixing a few copies of commendatory verses to their translations; but Doctor Busby's preliminaries are far more substantial. We are presented with nineteen pages of subscribers, from Princes of the Blood-Royal,' down to plain Young, Charles George, Esq.' Each rank has its appropriate head in black letter ;--Princes, Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, Viscounts, Barons, Privy Counsellors, &c. As such an assemblage will no doubt dazzle the reader at his entrance on the work, we are inclined to leave him for a short time in this goodly company, and to descant to the few who may attend to us, on the present state of our poetical translations.
Virgil, with the exception of his Eclogues, Terence, Tibullus, Juvenal, Manilius, and parts of Ovid, have been well and fairly translated. The other writers of Roman poetry have either not been attempted, or not adequately rendered. As we are not aware of
any author who has generally treated this subject, we shall hazard a few remarks upon it, since it naturally leads to our examination of Dr. Busby's Didascalic Poem.
The great difficulty which, without sufficient reason, has been attributed to Plautus, was the probable cause why no translation of him appeared when his wit would have been most congenial to the play-wrights of the day : for if we except an ancient translation of the Menachmi, by W. W. 1595, and an abortive attempt by Echard and Cooke, the Plautini sales were not naturalized till the middle of the last century by Bonnell Thornton and Co. The recommendation of George Colman, Senior, to whom the comedies were dedicated, and whose success in Terence was generally allowed, influenced for a time the public voice in favour of this imitation of his plan. But the work is now almost forgotten; nor indeed can a good translation of Plautus be expected until he is freed, in some measure, from the numberless specks which still disfigure his text.
Although there are passages in Catullus which delicacy must deem untranslatable, yet it is surprising that his beauties have never
(but in one solitary and imperfect instance) been rendered accessible to English readers. The Acme and the Atys may vie in pathos with any poems of the same cast ancient or modern. The Epithalamium, the favourite of Sir William Jones, the Peleus and Thetis, the burst of feeling on the death of his brother, and the minor poems, with a few exceptions, loudly call for poetical competition.
It may be deemed almost a disgrace to our national taste that Horace should be still buffeted between Holyday and Creech, Francis and Clubbe, Boscawen and Duncombe. Francis has partially succeeded in some of the odes; and many of them are occasionally to be met with in our fugitive poetry, extremely well rendered. These are naturally the most popular ; while the rest, with the epodes, satires and epistles, have little claim to attention in their new dresses.
Among the amatory poets of the day, Propertius, the most polished and refined of elegiac writers, bas not yet found one to redeem his beauties from the transpositions of Broukhusius, and the more than German assaults of Kuinoel. He has been said, indeed, to make love like a schoolmaster; and this, no doubt, has prevented the fastidious from turning over his pages; but if he did so, Orbilius was an accomplished gentleman. No classic, of the Augustan age, is less read and less understood than Propertius; his indelicacies have been enlarged on, his hellenisms have been criticised, his heartlessness bas been ridiculed ; but the fact is, he has hitherto met with bad editors, prejudiced readers, and no adequate translators.
To infuse the strength, warmth, and bold conciseness of Persius into our language, was a labour of no common exertion, and, in the prosecution of it, we find Dryden fail from vulgarity, Brewster from plagiarism, and Sir William Drummond from an endeavour to grind the fruges Cleantheas into vers de société.
A selection from Martial, by different bands, would make not an unamusing volume. Few of his epigrams are correetly rendered, or boast any of the naïveté of the original. The pseudotragedies of Seneca, and the Latin anthologies, are undeserving the time which tbeir translation would exact.
Next to Virgil, as an epic poet, Lucan confessedly takes his rank. He is the only bard who has made a catalogue poetical. The whole of the first book is inimitable. The Sacred Grove, the Marriage of Cato, the Apotheosis of Pompey, and other splendid passages, bespeak a mind, not as Quintilian chuses to assert, oratorical merely, but capable of the highest flights of poetry. Yet to May and Rowe alone is Lucan indebted for any knowledge which the English reader can obtain of him. May thus renders one of the finest passages in the poem,
At non in Pharia Manes jacuere favillâ,
Prosiluit busto: semiustaque membra relinquens,
Where with black ayre the starry poles doe meet.'-B.IX. 1. Rowe undertook his translation more in the spirit of party than of poetry; and the best portions of it are those which are least worthy of attention in the original. He has chiefly succeeded in the argumentative and sarcastic parts. In the tender and descriptive he has generally failed; it is scarcely credible that the author of Jane Shore should thus give Çornelia's griefs to his spuntrymen :
! Ah! my once greatest Lord ! ah! cruel hour;
Is thy victorious head in fortune's power?
did I wed thee only to undo ?
Thy kings be faithful, and the world obey'-B.VIII. 127. On the whole, Lucan calls for a new translation more than any writer after the golden age of Roman verse; and we have dwelt on this subject longer, perhaps, than Dr. Busby may think fair, because we are convinced that the public acquiesce in Rowe, more from the nominis umbra, than from any real excellencies. , of his version.
Statius is wretchedly handled by Lewis. Dr. Busby informs us, that his son the reciter, is at present employed on a new translation--we wish him success, and shall hail the moment,
lætam faciet cum Statius urbem, Indicetque diem. After all, it is a dull study; and we should be well content to leave him, with Silius Italicus, to mere scholars. They will not prosper in our soil; even the translation of a book of Statius by Pope led to little praise and to no imitation. We speak of the Thebaid alone. The Sylve, which Jeremy Markland proudly pro
claims that he had purified in five hundred passages, in which there was oudev üyses, ought to be no longer exotics. In a former number we cited some pleasing lines on sleep, translated by Mr. Hodgson. The villa Surrentina, the Genethliacon Lucani, the Odes to Maximus and to Severus, would bear the most classical transfusion into our language. We are well aware that we tread on dangerous ground in comparing Statius with Horace, yet if we throw aside our prejudices for a moment, we inust surely allow that the muse of the golden day still lingered in the Sylvæ.
Valerius Flaccus is, we must admit, generally turgid and bombastic, yet be abounds also in passages written with great judgment and chastised spirit. We have not met with an English translation of his Argonautics. We shall beg indulgence for a few words in favour of Claudian, and then turn to Lucretius, whom we have, without reference to chronology, left to a more extended criticism.
To those youths who are intended, during their school instruction, to be made Latin versifiers, however paradoxical it may seem, we would recommend, though with some caution, repeated draughts of Claudian. There is in him a rythm, a cadence, a olimax, which he enjoys in common with Virgil; besides a more complete possession, perhaps, of the os rotundum, and a dignity of compound epithet which, under the guidance of taste and judgment, are well calculated to enrich the compositions of the youthful student.
Lucretius bas not been altogether fortunate in his commentators; yet though Wakefield's faults are numerous and obstrusive, we cannot agree with Dr. Nott, to raise Havercamp at his expense. The criticisin of Havercamp's days is now well understood: as a pioneer of literature, he ranks with Burman and Oudendorp; but in the present state of classical advancement, we can set a value on his diligence alone. Wakefield (who is dubbed 'Doctor' by Dr. Nott) was deficient in taste for Latin poetry. If we needed any proof of this, the laboured doggerel prefixed to his edition and dedicated to Mr. Fox, would decide the question.*
His affectation and innovations in orthography were frequently ludicrous, He laid down canons to which he did not adhere: he forgot in one page, what he had advanced in the former; and he dissented from the just emendations and illustrations of others from private pique and party spirit. Acute, ingenious and persevering, he was at the same time so vehemently afflicted with the critical bypochondria, that he fancied himself on an eminence, and
This is the opening of his dull panegyric:
Te salvere jubet simplex, si rustica, Musa,